Ghana News Archive
By S. Sarpong - Moving along the borders of these two West African countries, Ghana and Togo, it is difficult to believe they are two distinct countries.
Just one street separates Lome, the capital of Togo and Aflao, Ghana's most easternmost town. They are brothers with some natural links. The local language Ewe is spoken by both Ghanaians and Togolese in this border region. And Ghana even supplies power to Togo.
In 1956, voters in British Togoland voted to join the then Gold Coast which became Ghana in 1957. When French Togoland became independent in 1960, a movement sprung up dedicated to the unification of the former British Togoland with the people of the Republic of Togo.
Some Togolese supported it but this did not go down well with the Ghanaians.
Relations between Ghana and Togo hit a record low when Togolese President, Gnassingbe Eyadema overthrew the civilian government of President Sylvanus Olympio who died in the course of the coup of 1963.
As it is, when they are not squabbling about migration across the common border, they might be brawling about fleeing dissidents. Their borders have been rigged with cross-border smuggling and currency trafficking , age-long plagues to economies of both countries but more especially to Ghana.
Ever since Ghana's current President, Jerry John Rawlings stepped onto the political scene in 1979, he has also found Togo's President Eyadema, an unyielding neighbour and their differences have continued to escalate with each passing day.
In 1985, relations between the two slumped, following bombings at a time the Ghanaian army was engaged in manoeuvres just across the border with Togo.
In 1986, it again developed into a bombshell following an uprising in Togo in which the Togolese authorities blamed Ghana, Burkina Faso and Mali.
Togo claimed the coup attempt was masterminded from Ghana by Togolese dissidents with Burkina Faso giving the plotters further training before they finally went to Togo for the onslaught. These countries however denied any involvement.
Ghana on the other hand has often accused Togo of supporting and aiding dissidents bent on overthrowing Rawlings.
After painstaking efforts by the two leaders, things now seem to be easing for them.
Rawlings visited Togo last year in his position as the then Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
Ever since, the seeds of discord and malevolence have given way to reciprocal trust and mutual understanding. Both leaders have pledged to settle all their disputes through peaceful means whether it is the issue of refugees or issues on border security.
So when Eyadema visited Ghana from May 12 -13 primarily to renew his commitment to the quest for peace and seek more avenues for economic co-operation , it became apparent that their desire to forge ahead is now being concretised.
"The two countries should forget the past and ensure peace and stability for their countries and peoples," Eyadema stated, stressing that, "lack of frequent interaction between us on matters of mutual interest in the past did not help to establish cordial relations."
There has been low level of economic and trade partnership between them and the two leaders attributed this to the mistrust that has long been part of their relationship.
Both leaders have now pledged their preparedness to forget the acrimonies that characterised their relations in the past and promised to foster friendship based on mutual trust - a relationship that posterity would remember them for.
The Togolese Ambassador to Ghana, Assiongbor Folivi enthused about the fraternal reunion, remarked, "we are witnessing the triumph of dialogue and moderation which alone can lead people to settle their problems on long lasting basis."
But as if to take his `new found friend' through democratic principles, Rawlings stated at a dinner he hosted in Eyadema's honour that "electoral systems which guarantee equal opportunities for all to participate in government are crucial for public confidence and stable democracies on the African continent."
Eyadema is often accused of putting impediments in the way of outstanding personalities who could have beaten him to the race for the presidency in 1993. He is said to have subtly prevented them from contesting by coming out with some highly contentious electoral laws.
Indeed, no one would doubt the commitments of the two leaders in their quest to forge ahead, but judging from the various acts that they had played against each other during their acrimonious times, it would be very difficult for them to wipe off these memories just at a go.
Selection of older Ghana news 2007 - Jan 2015
Archive 2007 - 2015